21 Iyar 5779 / Sunday, May 26, 2019 | Torah Reading: Bamidbar
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The Wallpaper    

The Wallpaper

Sometimes, the external circumstances seem terrible and people ask, "How can Hashem do such a thing?" But underneath, dramatic improvements are taking place...


Sometimes, it can seem so hard to hang on to G-d, especially when He appears to be turning your life upside down for no obvious reason.

Before my husband's father died, he had a job, I had a home, we belonged to a community, we had enough money (tight, but enough), my kids were happily settled in schools.
I was praying for an hour a day; my husband was going to the sunrise minyan, learning Torah in the morning at yeshiva, and then going off to work. I went to and gave Torah classes; I only read holy books; I was working on my bad characteristics one by one, as per Rav Arush's instructions, and I'd hit 'gratitude' (or more accurately, my ingratitude) - when my whole world capsized.
My husband's father died unexpectedly three years' ago, and his death sparked off a period of spiritual, emotional, mental and physical turmoil that's been unparalleled, even in my eventful life.
Over the last three years, we lost one thing after another: jobs, homes, peace of mind, community, friends, stability, optimism, direction, shalom bayit, and recently, emuna.
For months, for years, I've been wandering around in a dazed fog of confusion and doubt, wandering what the heck is going on with my life, and what the heck G-d wants from me.
This week - today - I'm starting to see some of the method that's been underneath all the madness.
For as long as life is going smoothly, we have no idea about what's really going on inside of us. We 'keep busy' as a way of avoiding thoughts, feelings, circumstances that are often far too upsetting or painful to look at, even if we were truly aware of them.
I mean, why go into all the fears I have, deep down, if I don't really have to? Why start looking for the root of my anxiety, or my anger, or my obsession with money, if I don't really have to?
We're probably all like that, aren't we? And there wouldn't be any problem, except that these bad character traits, these subconscious knee-jerk reactions of ours are completely skewing our lives, even when we still have surface 'calm'.
That's why so many people need sleeping pills to help them fall asleep; why so many people are taking Prozac; why so many people are terrified of 'real' conversations, or of telling the truth about myriad aspects of their lives.
Honestly, I thought I was looking at all the real internal stuff I had to deal with three years' ago, but really? I was barely scratching the surface. I knew I was arrogant, but I didn't realize how much or how widespread it was. I knew I was ungrateful, but it's only when G-d took away so many of the things I'd taken for granted that I got a clue about how bad the problem had really been. And so on, and so forth.
The last three years, I've done a lot of teshuva. The last three years, me and my husband have also learnt so much about ourselves, our souls, and our relationships with others.
Much of what we've learnt has come about via the most painful circumstances. At the time, I couldn't understand why, but now I see that we simply couldn't have done it any other way, and have really still done it.
This morning, I had a conversation with my husband that made a huge piece of the 'inner dimension' jigsaw puzzle fall into place. For the first time in months, I started to feel happy and even a little optimistic, that maybe we'd actually arrived at our spiritual destination now. We got to a massive understanding about ourselves that G-d engineered the whole last three years just in order for us to uncover.
Once that piece of information was revealed, so much about the last three years started to slot into place. We're not out of the woods yet: our financial situation is terrible; my inner turmoil is still there, although massively abating; I'm still lonely. But I now see that those things aren't - and never were - the real problem.
They were just the wallpaper, the visible consequence of 'the real problem' that was buried very far down in our psyche. In that deep place, things have now changed, thank G-d. It may take some time to reach the surface, and to blossom into improved circumstances, but it's coming.
And now, I can see G-d hasn't just been torturing us for no good reason. He's been uncovering the bad buried in us, and dissolving it. It's hurt like nothing else - but now I know it wasn't for nothing, that it was purposeful, I'm starting to believe in G-d's goodness again. And for a weary soul like mine, that is the sweetest healing balm imaginable.
* * *
You're welcome to visit Rivka Levy's personal website at www.emunaroma.com


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